EU Commission recommends lifting blanket UK travel bans

Lorries are seen parked on the M20 motorway, as EU countries impose a travel ban from the UK following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, near Ashford, Britain, December 22, 2020. REUTERS/Simon Dawson

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Commission recommended on Tuesday that travel bans imposed by EU countries on Britain to contain a new variant of the coronavirus should end to allow freight and essential travel to resume and let people return home.

The recommendation, to be put to EU ambassadors later on Tuesday, advised that non-essential travel to and from Britain should be discouraged. However, people heading to their country of residence should be allowed to do so, provided they undergo a COVID-19 test or quarantine for 10 days, the Commission said.

“Blanket travel bans should not prevent thousands of EU and UK citizens from returning to their homes,” European Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders said in a statement.

The recommendations are designed to set common rules within the EU and the ambassadors will consider adopting them on Tuesday. However, border controls are governed by national policy, so each EU country can have its own rules.

Essential travellers, such as medical staff, should be required to undergo a test prior to departure, but should not be required to quarantine, the EU executive recommended.

Transport staff within the EU, including truck drivers, should be exempted from any travel ban and from testing and quarantine requirements. If an EU country demands rapid antigen tests from transport workers coming from Britain this should not lead to transport disruption, the Commission said.

From Jan. 1, with the end of the Brexit transition period, only essential travel would be allowed from Britain unless Britain were added to an EU “safe country” list, which is currently composed of just eight countries.

This limitation would not apply to UK nationals who are residents in the EU or EU nationals resident in Britain.

Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop, editing by Marine Strauss and Mark Heinrich